Nigeria: Why Boko Haram has the upper hand!

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By Ohia Israel

A few weeks ago, the Nigerian media was awash with the news of the ceasefire which the Nigerian government said it has entered with the Boko Haram insurgents. It was a ceasefire which was technically flawed barely 24hours after with strikes in Adamawa and Borno States respectively. The most serious issue in the country is that insurgence has increased to the extent that a town as big as Mubi has fallen into the hands of the Boko Haram Sect.

As it is while the battle rages on, the security challenge in the commercial town of Mubi, Adamawa State, sees the dreaded Boko Haram sect consolidating its position in the captured town by renaming it “Madinatul Islam,” meaning ‘the city of Islam’.

One of the residents, Aliyu Bala, who could not leave Mubi at the time of the invasion of the town by the insurgents, disclosed this in a telephone chat with journalists. He said the insurgents had completely taken over control of the town.

“They mounted checkpoints and surveillance at strategic locations, brandishing rifles, but asking us not to panic or run away,” Mr Bala said. He said despite assurances of safety given to them by the Boko Haram, thousands of trapped residents had been sneaking out, preferring not to take chances.

According to them, the insurgents have urged displaced residents of captured communities of Adamawa State to return home, assuring them of safety in the “Islamic Caliphate.”

As it is, four local governments— Michika, Madagali, Mubi North and Mubi South of Adamawa State have fallen under the grip of the Boko Haram, leading to the displacement of thousands.

A resident of Uba town, Salisu Baba, said normal activities had picked up in the captured territories, as the Boko Haram insurgents enjoined residents to go about their normal activities and open their shops for business. The resident added that the insurgents had warned politicians not to try to hold any election in the state, as they vowed to frustrate such.

“The terrorists also vowed to capture the entire state soon. “They have assured people of freedom and have been telling shop owners to open their shops, threatening that anyone who fails to do so will have it broken into. “Whenever the insurgents want any commodity, they pay for it. This encouraged meat sellers, tea sellers and others to open for business. “They provided security during the market day in Uba, last Thursday, while promising to continue to provide utmost security to marketers and residents, who came to the area, as long as they complied with Islamic rules. “They have opened one of the filling stations belonging to A.A Garba in Uba, and motorists troop to buy the commodity which is of high demand.”

Not done with that, the Boko Haram members carried out a ferocious attack at a bus terminus as 23 were killed and 34 injured. The attack saw Gombe-line Park in Gombe metropolis of Gombe State went up in flames as the triple explosion rocked the park.

The explosion also left over twelve 18-Seater buses, some of which belonged to the State Government Transport Company called Gombe line, completely destroyed. In the same Gombe, a police station in Nafada Local Government area of Gombe State was attacked by the Boko Haram sect, as it was gathered that Police officers attached to the station were overpowered even as some of the officers reportedly fled on sighting the insurgents said to have superior fire power, security sources said.

Just a day later, residents of Ashaka village, the production town of Asaka Cement located in Gombe State north-east Nigeria say suspected terrorist group, Boko Haram, carried out an operation in the area, as they carted away eight Toyota Hilux vans loaded with dynamite.

According to Ashaka residents, the insurgents came to the company and took over control of the town and after gathering the people and preaching their ideologies to them assured them they will not hurt anyone.

“Yes, the group came here without killing anybody but they went away with eight Toyota Hilux belonging to Ashaka cement PLC loaded with dynamite taken from the production site of the company after preaching their ways to residents assembled at one place,” a resident said.

Following the series of attacks in Gombe, the Gombe State government last Wednesday ordered the closure of all public and private schools in the state, a day after the attack by suspected Boko Haram terrorists on two towns in the state. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that parents who took their children to school on Wednesday were told to take them back as the schools had been closed on the orders of the government.

Edith Williams, Headmistress, Bethany International College, Gombe told NAN that she received a circular last Tuesday evening that all schools should be closed down for security reasons. Some parents who spoke to NAN commended the state government for the action, saying it was a necessary action to safeguard the students.

One of the parents, Hannatu Musa, said she was happy with the development as it would help to secure the children. NAN reports that both the Commissioner and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Education were not available for comments, but Alhaji Sani Jauro, Permanent Secretary, Government House, confirmed the development. He however said that the closure of the schools had nothing to do with security threats to the state but a “normal mid-term break for students”.

Also in Yobe, a car suicide bomber was reported to have attacked Shiite Muslims in Potiskum Yobe State during Ashura ritual at Tsohuwar Kasuwa.  According to witnesses, a large explosion last Monday rocked a major Shiite ceremony in northeast Nigeria’s Yobe State, an area repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram.

The bomb exploded while Shia worshippers were observing the Ashura festival in the Tsohuwar Kasuwa area of Potiskum city.

A police officer at the scene who requested anonymity said “it was a huge crowd and many of them were affected.” A car bomb targeting

Ashura is marked yearly by Shi’ites worldwide, as the 10th day of the Muslim new year; an event that defines Shi’ism and its rift with Sunni Islam. The festival is used to commemorate the slaying of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussein, at the battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

Boko Haram believes the Shiite Muslims support western education which to them is forbidden by Allah. Meanwhile, Borno State deputy governor, Alhaji Zanna Umar Mustapha, has observed that with the way the Boko Haram insurgents are capturing territories in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, there would be a complete shut-down of activities in the troubled states if necessary action was not taken by the Federal government in the next few months.

Mustapha was speaking in Yola last Monday when he visited thousands of Borno indigenes who were forced to leave their state and schools following Boko Haram attacks in Mubi.

According to Zannah “If the Federal Government does not add extra effort, in the next two to three months, the three North-Eastern states will no longer be in existence. “The Federal Government has tried its best but their best is not enough, because rather than going after the insurgents, it is the insurgents that are going after us. It is a big crime that the criminals are better equipped than the military and they are just few kilometres from the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States capitals.”

He said the continuous occupation of more towns by Boko Haram had confirmed the Borno State governor’s statement that the terrorists possess superior weapons.

He disclosed that 13 local governments in Borno, three in Adamawa and others in Yobe were currently under the control of Boko Haram. He said, going by intelligence reports, if the Federal Government did not step up its security measures the fall of the three states would only be a matter of days or weeks. The deputy governor expressed doubts on the purported ceasefire agreement between the Federal Government and the terrorists.

“We are yet to believe that there was a ceasefire because the first day after the announcement was made, over 30 people were killed in Borno State, and (the terrorists) continued with their rampage in Adamawa, Gombe and only this morning there was a bomb blast in Yobe.

“Let us appeal to the international community to come to our rescue otherwise in the next few months, the three states may not exist.”

Mustapha also accused the insurgents of committing war crimes, saying they deployed anti-aircraft missiles in killing the people against international rules and conventions.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Alhaji Atiku last week at a World Press Conference in Abuja solicited for the help of the International Community in the fight against the menace of the Boko Haram sect.

In his statement Atiku said; “It is with deep regret that I came to learn that Mubi, which is one of the largest towns in Adamawa State of northeast Nigeria, has been taken by the terrorist group commonly known as Boko Haram.  As you may know, in recent weeks and months, Mubi has been a town to which displaced persons from further north have fled for safety after their communities fell to Boko Haram.  As I speak, the inhabitants of Mubi, together with those who went there for safety, find themselves at the mercy of this terrorist group.

According to Atiku, “I am Nigerian.  I believe in the integrity of Nigeria as a whole, and every part of this country matters to me. But I was born and bred in the northeast.  So, please, excuse me if I should say a few words about the part of the country where I am from, about what the people from the northeast of Nigeria have had to suffer for far, far too long. Things should never have got to this stage.  Thousands of Nigerians have had to flee their homes.  Their houses and farms have been destroyed.  They do not know where to go or how to restart their lives.  That is the degree to which we have come in this country. I say this with reluctance and with shame.  The situation in which we find ourselves today is grave.  Much of Borno, and the north of Adamawa and Yobe States is already at the mercy of the terrorists.  It started a few months ago with Bama, which is nearly 400 kilometres from Yola, capital of Adamawa State.”

In his narration Atiku said the next major town to be taken by terrorists was Gwoza, where a terrorist caliphate flag has long been hoisted.  Smaller towns near Gwoza such as Pulka and Limankra are equally not free.  Next was Madagali.  The town is still being occupied.  Then fell Gulak.  Next was Michika, then Bazza.  Next was the twin town of Uba which is half Adamawa and half Borno.  Its neighboring town of Lassa was also overrun.  Uba was the latest town captured before the terrorists trampled on Mubi.  People from these troubled areas are now pouring into Yola for safety.

“As somebody who hails from Adamawa State, you can appreciate why I feel such emotion at the fate of my people. For whatever reason, our defence forces are unable to cope and unable to defend. My sympathies go out to the soldiers who find themselves in a situation not of their making.  This is a crisis of leadership. We were told that the budget for security was going to be enlarged so that the security agencies and military would be in a better position to tackle the insurgency.  How is it possible that a great nation like Nigeria should find itself in a situation where a handful of terrorists is able to invade a town as large as Mubi with a population of about 300,000? How the insurgents were able to so easily take a town of this size, and the people find themselves defenseless and undefended?  How is it that the people have been made to suffer as they have?”

“I have previously spoken about the deteriorating security situation in this country on a number of occasions. On those occasions I deliberately restrained myself from speaking in a manner that might be construed as distracting the government and the security forces as they grappled with the dire security situation.  But the scale of injustice the people of Nigeria are suffering has reached a stage where I am obliged to amplify my concerns. Many of our citizens, unable to come to terms with why a so-called “Africa’s best army” has been unable to confront this horrendous situation, are increasingly assuming that this whole thing is about electoral politics.  They suspect that the seeming inability of the government to end the crisis is a ploy to weaken some parts of the country ahead of the 2015 elections. Can we, in all honesty, blame them for having those suspicions?

Atiku further said; “I call upon the international community to help us.  I am making a special appeal to countries with sufficient knowhow and experience in tackling terrorism to increase their assistance to us. The relief agencies that are already working here should please double their efforts. And all people of goodwill should help in any way they can and to do more than they have been doing to alleviate the pain and suffering that we Nigerians face through this insurgency.  At a time when we are constantly bombarded with horror stories of ugly events elsewhere in the world – here in West Africa, we are faced with the Ebola epidemic and other trouble spots – I draw your attention to a humanitarian crisis which is also a matter of international security.”

Concluding, he said; “This Boko Haram insurgency has been with us now for several years but has, in these last few days, taken a step further towards being a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk.  Nigeria needs the world’s support. The world must not abandon Nigerians in our time of need.”

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